Can you really Cannes creative work? By that I mean: are there or can there ever be objective measurements of what makes one product inspired and another pedestrian? Or is it all subjective, as in “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder?”

Can we apply a metric to creativity and validate a dimensional scale? Or, by definition, do we diminish our thinking by creating linear judgments for a product that is produced by muse and synapse?
At Cannes every year around this time, our industry convenes its annual Cannes Lions awards festival. Nine panels comprised of dedicated judges, who represent the greatest talent from around the world, spend countless hours debating, deliberating, agonizing and sweating through session after session, reviewing thousands of pieces of work. They review executions, cases, and examples – in film, cyber, direct, promotion, media, outdoor, radio and press – in order to select, honor, laurel and admire the best of our collective output.

There is even a category called Titanium, which has been newly minted to pay tribute to the best idea of the year – full stop, bar none, channel/medium/execution aside.

And yet, there is always controversy, and there is always discussion. And there are always articles and seminars, late night dinner talk and wee hour bar talk, about what is really truly creative and worthy of our attention – versus what is merely borrowed interest, clever use of executional techniques, or us talking to ourselves looking for REEL as opposed to REAL.

Clearly, nothing is black and white, and objectivity and subjectivity meet and mix at some point in the process. Tempers flare, controversy is fueled and debate rages – resulting in soul searching, recalibration, coaching and even more focus on personal output, agency philosophy and hope and prayer for next year.

Look at the work yourself, and see what you think. Would you have voted the same way? What did you think was best? Did you agree with the choices? What did you think was a head-scratcher (not really belonging on the winning roster), and conversely what did you think should have won that didn’t make it to the final list?

The beauty of the debate is that there is no single right answer; this is not a “yes” or “no” check box test or a multiple-choice correct/incorrect exam. Yet there might be, at least on a weighted basis, an ultimate arbiter…

Think about this: Leonardo; Michelangelo; Picasso; Dickens; Voltaire; and Homer endure because they have audiences who respond and continue to respond to their work. See where I’m going?

Consumers – yes – consumers (in the broadest sense) have made them endure, given them immortality. Many of these greats were lambasted by critics during their lives; many had contemporaries, now long forgotten, who were loved by the “judges” but are nowhere to be found today.

Funny that: consumers. What a concept. Yet think on it. Eternal fame was bestowed by the masses, and if that’s so, what is the lesson for us?

While at Cannes, I participated in a seminar entitled, “It’s Not Creative, Unless…?” MSN and Yahoo both participated (Google declined after accepting) as did a number of well-known names in creative, entertainment and media. ( As part of the exercise I posted the following blog with the agreement of the panel.

Cannes, Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It’s Not Creative, Unless…

It’s not creative, unless what? It wins an award? Sells something? Cuts through the clutter (whatever that is)?

Is creative content? Is it distribution? Have we come into a new age where it’s a bit of both plus some entertainment to mix it up? Or has it always been that way, since our cave-bound ancestors painted the stone walls of their homes – mixing art, religion, survival and fun…

Have we spammed ourselves and our audience into a stupor, so that we no longer know what is creative? Do we fool ourselves into thinking that we are the sole arbiters of creative taste? Or has the consumer surpassed us, surprising us as they break every rule by buying books, going to movies, watching TV and reading newspapers when they feel that the effort is worth the action?

What about user-generated content? Or is it user-generated creative? How do we judge it?

Or has nothing really changed, and an idea is an idea? Yes, channels morph and evolve, and yes, context is a moving target. But the basics – Leonardo is still a genius, the code aside; Michelangelo is still unsurpassed; we still look with awe on the ancient Egyptians; the Greece and Rome of old still ignite our imagination; and the Bible remains the best seller of all time.

So what is it?? It’s not creative, unless?

SO? What do you think???

We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
– Decca Recording Company, rejecting the Beatles in 1962.


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